patch

On 31 October 2023, Ghazal Alagh, co-founder and ‘Chief Mama’ of Mamaearth, woke up to a bundle of “excitement, nervousness, mixed feelings and emotions.” The beauty and personal care (BPC) company rolled out its IPO to much fanfare. Mamaearth joins a formidable list of female-led businesses that have gone or are planning to go public. Among them are VLCC, MobiKwik, The Good Glamm Group, and the biggest of them all, Nykaa.

Despite the recent challenges to the Indian start-up scene, women-led start-ups and businesses stand out. Investors and the market are high on them, with some estimates pegging 33 of them with the potential to become unicorns. That is great news as government, industry, and allied associations focus on investing, mentoring, and increasing women’s entrepreneurship across all industries.

2024 promises to be a banner year for female-led businesses, with multiple planned IPOs and late-stage funding. At ATLAS Edge, we want to promote the next generation of female entrepreneurs. In celebration of the launch of our Executive Program for Women’s Entrepreneurship, we are looking at six inspiring female entrepreneurs who are driving innovation and lighting up India’s start-up scene.

Falguni Nayar, CEO & Founder, Nykaa

When omnichannel beauty retailer Nykaa launched its IPO in 2021, it was a rare VC-backed unicorn to be profitable. It immediately raised the bar for other ventures and placed its founder, the visionary Falguni Nayar, among the most sought-after business leaders in the country. Nykaa’s performance was a “watershed moment”, highlighting the potential of female-led businesses and triggering the great Indian beauty retail boom.

Vandana Luthra, Founder, VLCC

No Indian brand is more synonymous with female beauty and wellness than VLCC. Named after its eponymous founder, it started with a small wellness and beauty services centre in South Delhi’s posh SDA area. VLCC is today a global success story with a presence in 12 countries and 153 cities. Vandana Luthra changed the narrative in India before economic liberalisation, pioneering a holistic approach to beauty and well-being with comprehensive, personalised solutions beyond superficial aesthetics.

Richa Kar, CEO & Founder, Zivame

Reliance Retail paid an eye-popping $125 million for the intimate-wear brand Zivame. It is a testimony to the entrepreneurial spirit and marketing acumen of its founder Richa Kar, who found a way to break through social taboos to build the platform. Offering privacy, transparency, cultural and geography-specific understanding, and a wide array of choices, Zivame and Richa Kar built a women-first ethic to the business which, ultimately, proved to be its key differentiator.

Shahnaz Hussain, Founder, The Shahnaz Husain Group

Beauty and hair care royalty, Shahnaz Hussain, is widely considered among the first to popularise Ayurveda internationally. Her blend of ancient traditions with advanced scientific techniques has been a bestselling mix, with over 375 unique, patented formulations. Her OTC products are iconic in India, where she is synonymous with hair colour, hair care, and bridal make-up. Hussain predates top international brands, like The Body Shop, as a socially conscious, animal-cruelty-free, organic beauty brand.

Devita Saraf, Founder, Chairman, and CEO of Vu Televisions

Adopting an innovative approach to television manufacturing, Devita Saraf has leapt ahead to build a Rs. 1400 crore behemoth in the consumer electronics industry. In a traditionally male-dominated industry, Devita prioritised product innovation blending TV and computer features, which helped it stand out in a crowded market. Her intuitive understanding of the Indian market and ability to craft cross-functional technology products has elevated her among her industry peers.

Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, Founder, Biocon Limited

Biopharmaceutical giant and one of the OG female entrepreneurs of the country, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw is a trailblazing business leader who has inspired successive generations. Biocon has placed Indian pharmaceuticals on the global map, transforming generics and specialised medication, such as insulin, and making it available to people in over 100 countries at scale. Her impact transcends her industry, touching the lives of millions of people with affordable healthcare.

These are just a tip of the iceberg. We will need another post to talk about up-and-coming women entrepreneurs such as Upasana Taku of MobiKwik, Suchi Mukherjee of Limeroad, Pooja Dhingra of Le15, and Chitra Daga of Thrillophilia, who lead some of the most innovative businesses in India today. There is a surge of interest in niche business propositions such as SaaS-based Hasura, founded by Rajoshi Ghosh, and healthtech innovator, Pristyn Care led by Dr. Garima Sawhney.

Women’s entrepreneurship in India is at an inflection point. There is a recognition of the power of women business leaders to transform the economic and social landscape. The frontline generation of women business leaders such as Indra Nooyi, Arundhati Bhattacharya, Vani Kola, and Shaw has given way to a newer one. Exciting ideas are being experimented and women entrepreneurship is taking off in an unprecedented way.

We can say, with absolute confidence, that we have caught on to the trend.

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